Botanical Kinetics™ Purifying Creme Cleanser
Aveda

Botanical Kinetics™ Purifying Creme Cleanser

A rich facial cleanser ideal for dry or more mature skin, Aveda Purifying Creme Cleanser, containing jojoba, coconut and palm, has a mild cleansing action. Your skin will be fresh and vibrant, ready for a new day.
Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

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Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

Also-called: Witch Hazel Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial

Witch hazel is a smallish tree (up to 5m) that's native to North-America, has nice yellow flowers and is similar to the hazelnut bush (hence the name).  

As for skincare, it's loaded with active components that have a bunch of magic abilities, like astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant or anti-bacterial. It's also a well-known vasoconstrictor (makes the blood vessels narrower) and promotes the healing of broken skin by tightening up the skin proteins and thus creating a protective covering.

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The complication, though, is that different extracts and distillates can be made from different parts of the plant (bark, twigs, and leaves are typically used) and different extraction methods from different parts produce different results. So if you see only Wich Hazel Extract or Wich Hazel Water on the ingredient list, it's a bit hard to know what you're getting, but we will try to summarize the possibilities to give an idea.

The main biologically active components in Wich Hazel are hamamelitannin (potent astringent and antioxidant), catechins (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant) and gallic acid (antibacterial). The bark extract contains by far the most hamamelitannin, and it also has the most gallic acid and catechins. The twigs contain fewer catechins, less gallic acid and much less hamamelitannin (4.77% vs 0.18%). The leaves contain hardly any tannins (0.04%) or catechins and contain a medium amount of gallic acid (compared to bark and twigs).

In tiny amounts, Witch Hazel also contains essential oil and the fragrance component eugenol, but the amount is so small that it's probably not significant for the skin.

Apart from the differences in active components in different parts of Witch Hazel, the extraction methods also vary. Witch Hazel Distillate contains 14% added alcohol according to the USP specification, and alcohol is at best drying, at worst skin-damaging. Luckily, there are also alcohol-free distillates so if you prefer no alcohol, check the ingredient list carefully. Witch Hazel Extracts can also be made in different ways: browsing Ulprospector,  we could find hydroglycolic, hydroalcoholic and glicerin+water based extracts.

Well-known skin care expert, Paula Begoun rates witch hazel as poor and says that "depending on the form of witch hazel, you’re exposing your skin either to a sensitizing amount of alcohol or to tannins, or both." This might be the case if you are dealing with an alcoholic witch hazel bark water or extract, but looking at CosIng (the official INCI name listing of the EU), witch hazel bark water or witch hazel bark extract are not listed ingredients. Bark and leaf or bark and twig or all three are used together to create extracts so the chance that there is too much hamamelitannin in the final cosmetic ingredient seems small. Also, alcohol-free extracts and distillates exist, actually, the majority seems to be alcohol-free nowadays, so all in all, we think "Hamamelis Virginiana Extract" on the ingredient list is nothing to worry about.

We even found a German study that compared the efficacy of Hamamelis ointment to panthenol ointment for soothing of the skin in children (from 27 days old to 11 years old). They observed 309 children and concluded that both ointments were similarly effective but the one with Hamamelis was even better-tolerated (98.2% vs. 92.3% tolerated well the ointments in the two groups).

All in all, Witch Hazel Extract is a sloppy INCI name (btw, not in the CosIng listing), and you do not really know what you're  getting. But most probably, you are getting a goodie with nice astringent, soothing, antibacterial and even antioxidant properties.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

A very common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. It comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. It’s a nice ingredient that just feels good on the skin, and it’s also easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular. 

(1) Glycerin - goodie
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • Super common, used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but plays an important role in keeping the stuff between our skin cells healthy
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

What-it-does: emollient

An emollient ester that leaves a silky finish on the skin and increases the hydrating power of the formula.

In makeup products, it can counteract the drying effect of long-wear or waterproof formulas, and it also works great in shaving products to improve razor glide. 

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2

A so-called fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that does all kinds of things in a skincare product: it makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier). Can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.

What-it-does: emulsifying, emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It helps water and oil to mix (emulsifier), it makes your skin feel smooth (emollient) and can help to thicken up products.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A super common, waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth.

It can be produced from most vegetable oils in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

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It also occurs naturally in our body and is used as a food additive. As cosmetic chemist Colins writes it, "its safety really is beyond any doubt".

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Jojoba Oil | What-it-does: emollient

Jojoba is a drought resistant evergreen shrub native to Southwestern North America. It's known and grown for jojoba oil, the golden yellow liquid coming from the seeds (about 50% of the weight of the seeds will be oil).  

At first glance, it seems like your average emollient plant oil: it looks like an oil and it's nourishing and moisturizing to the skin. But if we dig a bit deeper, it turns out that jojoba oil is a really special and unique one: technically - or rather chemically - it's not an oil but a wax ester (and calling it an oil is kinda sloppy). 

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So what the heck is a wax ester and why is that important anyway? Well, to understand what a wax ester is, you first have to know that oils are chemically triglycerides, one glycerin + three fatty acids attached to it. The fatty acids attached to the glycerin vary and thus we have lots of kinds of oils, but they are all triglycerides. Mother nature created triglycerides to be easily hydrolyzed (be broken down to a glycerin + 3 fatty acid molecules) and oxidized (the fatty acid is broken down into small parts) - this happens basically when we eat fats or oils and our body generates energy from it.

Mother nature also created wax esters but to a totally different purpose. Chemically a wax ester is a fatty acid + a fatty alcohol, one long molecule. Wax esters are on the outer surface of several plant leaves to give them environmental protection. 25-30% of human sebum is also wax esters to give us, people environmental protection. 

So being a wax ester results in a couple of unique properties: First, jojoba oil is extremely stable. Like crazy stable. Even if you heat it to 370 C (698 F) for 96 hours it does not budge. (Many plant oils tend to go off pretty quickly). If you have some pure jojoba oil at home, you should be fine using it for years. 

Second, jojoba oil is the most similar to human sebum (both being wax esters), and the two are completely miscible. Acne.org has this not fully proven theory that thanks to this, jojoba might be able to "trick" the skin into thinking it has already produced enough sebum, so it might have "skin balancing" properties for oily skin.

Third, jojoba oil moisturizes the skin through a unique dual action. On the one hand it mixes with sebum and forms a thin, non-greasy, semi-occlusive layer, and on the other hand, it absorbs into the skin through pores and hair follicles then diffuses into the intercellular spaces of the outer layer of the skin to make it soft and supple.

All in all, the point is this: in contrast to real plant oils, wax esters were designed by mother nature to stay on the surface and form a protective, moisturizing barrier. And jojoba oil being a wax ester is uniquely excellent at doing that.

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

A cleansing agent that's claimed to be so gentle on the skin that it hardly impacts the skin barrier. It also gives a rich, creamy foam, it's based on vegetable fatty acids and is readily biodegradable.

It's an especially important and popular ingredient in "syndet bars" (or soapless soaps). Dr. Leslie Baumann says in her great Cosmetic Dermatology book that thanks to the unique molecular characteristic of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, it "has defined a new dimension in the mildness of cleansing bars".

Also-called: Grapefruit Seed Extract | What-it-does: perfuming, astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Tocopherol - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant, vitamins | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2
  • Primary fat-soluble antioxidant in our skin
  • Significant photoprotection against UVB rays
  • Vit C + Vit E work in synergy and provide great photoprotection
  • Has emollient properties
  • Easy to formulate, stable and relatively inexpensive
Read all the geeky details about Tocopherol here >>

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C, Ascorbyl Isotetrapalmitate, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, ATIP | What-it-does: antioxidant, vitamins, skin brightening

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable, oil-soluble form of skincare big shot Vitamin C. If you do not know, why Vitamin C is such a big deal in skincare, click here and read all about it. We are massive vitamin C fans and have written about it in excruciating detail.

So now, you know that Vitamin C is great and all but, it's really unstable and gives cosmetics companies many headaches. To solve this problem they came up with vitamin C derivatives, and one of them is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (let's call it ATIP in short).

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It's a really promising candidate (see below), but while reading all the goodness about it in a minute, do not forget that derivatives not only have to be absorbed into the skin but also have to be converted to pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid or AA) and the efficacy of the conversion is often unknown. In addition, vitamin C's three magic properties (antioxidant, collagen booster, skin brightener) are all properly proven in-vivo (on real people), but for the derivatives, it's mostly in-vitro studies or in the case of ATIP, it's in-vitro and done by an ingredient supplier.

With this context in mind let's see what ATIP might be able to do. First, it is stable (if pH < 5), easy to formulate and a joy to work with for a cosmetic chemist.

Second, because it's oil-soluble, its skin penetration abilities seem to be great. So great in fact, that it surpasses the penetration of pure vitamin C threefold at the same concentration and it penetrates successfully into the deeper layers of the skin (that is usually important to do some anti-aging work). There is also in-vitro data showing that it converts to AA in the skin. 

Third, ATIP seems to have all three magic abilities of pure vitamin C: it gives antioxidant protection from both UVB and UVA rays, it increases collagen synthesis (even more than AA) and it has a skin brightening effect by reducing melanogenesis by more than 80% in human melanoma cell cultures.

So this all sounds really great, but these are only in-vitro results at this point. We could find Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate mentioned only in one published in-vivo study that examined the anti-aging properties of a silicone formula containing 10% AA and 7% ATIP. The authors theorized that the 10% AA is released slowly from the silicon delivery system and probably stays in the upper layer of the skin to give antioxidant benefits, while ATIP penetrates more rapidly and deeply and gives some wrinkle-reducing benefits. The study was a small (10 patients), double-blind experiment, and the formula did show some measurable anti-aging results. However, it is hard to know how much pure vitamin C or ATIP can be thanked.

Bottom line: a really promising, but not well-proven vitamin C derivative that can be worth a try especially if you like experimenting (but if you like the tried and true, pure vitamin C will be your best bet).

Also-called: Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

It's an ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that belongs to the "retinoid family". The retinoid family is pretty much the royal family of skincare, with the queen being the FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient tretinoin. Retinol is also a very famous member of the family, but it's like Prince William, two steps away from the throne. Retinyl palmitate will be then little Prince George, quite far (3 steps) away from the throne. 

By steps, we mean metabolic steps. Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is the active ingredient our skin cells can understand and retinyl palmitate (RP) has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to actually do something. The conversion is a 3 step one and looks like this:

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retinyl palmitate --> retinol -- > retinaldehyde --> all-trans-retinoic acid

As we wrote in our lengthy retinol description the problem is that the conversion is not terribly effective. The evidence that RP is still an effective anti-aging ingredient is not very strong, in fact, it's weak. Dr. Leslie Baumann in her fantastic Cosmetic Dermatology book writes that RP is topically ineffective

What's more, the anti-aging effectiveness is not the only questionable thing about RP. It also exibits questionable behaviour in the presence of UV light and was the center of a debate between the non-profit group, EWG (whose intentions are no doubt good, but its credibility is often questioned by scientists) and a group of scientists and dermatologists lead by Steven Q. Wang, MD,  director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. 

Dr. Leslie Baumann wrote a great review of the debate and summarized the research available about retinyl palmitate here.  It seems that there is a study showing RP being photo protective against UVB rays but there is also a study showing RP causing DNA damage and cytotoxicity in association with UVA. 

We think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we agree with Dr. Baumann's conclusion: "sufficient evidence to establish a causal link between RP and skin cancer has not been produced. Nor, I’m afraid, are there any good reasons to recommend the use of RP". We would add especially during the day!

Bottom line: If you wanna get serious about retinoids, RP is not your ingredient (retinol or tretinoin is!). However, if you use a product that you like and it also contains RP, there is no reason to throw it away. If possible use it at night, just to be on the safe side.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Fragrance, Parfum | What-it-does: perfuming

Exactly what it sounds: nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. Fragrance in the US and parfum in the EU is a generic term on the ingredient list that is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average (but it can have as much as 200 components!). 

If you are someone who likes to know what you put on your face than fragrance is not your best friend - no way to know what’s really in it.  

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Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!). 

* Geraniol - icky
What-it-does: perfuming

Geraniol is a common fragrance ingredient. It smells like rose and can be found in rose oil or in small quantities in geranium, lemon and many other essential oils. 

Just like other similar fragrance ingredients (like linalool and limonene) geraniol also oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. Best to avoid if you have sensitive skin.

Linalool - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

Linalool is a super common fragrance ingredient. It’s kind of everywhere - both in plants and in cosmetic products. It’s part of 200 natural oils including lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, jasmine, geranium and it can be found in 90-95% of prestige perfumes on the market. 

The problem with linalool is, that just like limonene it oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. That’s why a product containing linalool that has been opened for several months is more likely to be allergenic than a fresh one.

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A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results. 

What-it-does: perfuming

A common fragrance ingredient that has a sweet scent somewhere between lily and fruity melon. Can be found in essential oils, such as lavender oil, orange flower oil or ylang-ylang.

In cosmetics, it can be used up to 1%. It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

Limonene - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, solvent, deodorant

A super common and cheap fragrance ingredient. It's in many plants, e.g. rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and it's the main component (about 50-90%) of the peel oil of citrus fruits.

It does smell nice but the problem is that it oxidizes on air exposure and the resulting stuff is not good for the skin. Oxidized limonene can cause allergic contact dermatitis and counts as a frequent skin sensitizer

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Limonene's nr1 function is definitely being a fragrance component, but there are several studies showing that it's also a penetration enhancer, mainly for oil-loving components.

All in all, limonene has some pros and cons, but - especially if your skin is sensitive - the cons probably outweigh the pros.  

Citric Acid - goodie
What-it-does: exfoliant, buffering

Citric acid comes from citrus fruits and is an AHA. If these magic three letters don’t tell you anything, click here and read our detailed description on glycolic acid, the most famous AHA. 

So citric acid is an exfoliant, that can - just like other AHAs - gently lift off the dead skin cells of your skin and make it more smooth and fresh. 

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There is also some research showing that citric acid with regular use (think three months and 20% concentration) can help sun-damaged skin, increase skin thickness and some nice hydrating things called glycosaminoglycans in the skin. 

But according to a comparative study done in 1995, citric acid has less skin improving magic properties than glycolic or lactic acid. Probably that’s why citric acid is usually not used as an exfoliant but more as a helper ingredient in small amounts to adjust the pH of a formulation. 

This totally unpronounceable ingredient (let’s take a shortcut: MCI) is a super effective preservative with both antibacterial and antifungal effects that works at very low concentrations. 

The bad news with it though is that it can sensitize the skin easily (it’s a so-called non-fragrance allergen). It’s not permitted to be used alone, but only with its BFF, methylisothiazolinone (MI), another icky preservative. Together they have a broad spectrum antimicrobial effect but are permitted to be used only in rinse-off products (under 0.0015%).

What-it-does: preservative

As you may guess, if something is only recommended in products that you rinse off (cleansers and shampoos), then it’s probably not the best ingredient for the skin.

Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a preservative that' super efficient against bacteria at surprisingly low concentrations. The problem with it though is that it can also sensitize and irritate the skin quite easily when it comes in leave-on formulas.

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Currently, some countries are considering to ban it entirely (like Denmark) and the permitted use level is very low (under 0.01%). Luckily there are plenty of products on the market with other preservative options so if you are a better safe than sorry type it's probably best to avoid it. 

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